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April 7, 2011

Damn kids today! With their newfangled chrononaut suits!
Posted by Patrick at 04:02 PM * 98 comments

Via Rob MacDougall on Twitter: China’s General Bureau of Radio, Film, and Television has “called a halt” to further movies and TV programs about…time travel.

Let the jokes begin.

Comments on Damn kids today! With their newfangled chrononaut suits!:
#1 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2011, 04:11 PM:

Stupid totalitarians are only truly funny if you don't have to live in fear of them.

That said...I'm laughing, because it's just sooooo stooooopid!

#2 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2011, 04:19 PM:

I'm waiting for them to ban all forms of fiction. After all, people with imaginations are bad for the grayface hive.

#3 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2011, 04:26 PM:

Reading the article, though, the concern seems to be, not some matter of ideology, but that they kept making really bad time travel shows.

#4 ::: Nathaniel ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2011, 04:42 PM:

They're just reminding everyone that re-writing history is the government's job.

#5 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2011, 04:43 PM:

Why? I mean, isn't it about time?


(waiting for groans to begin..)

#6 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2011, 04:51 PM:

rea: I don't think I agree: The authority’s decision was made on the Television Director Committee Meeting on April 1st. – but obviously it’s not a prank to fans of the drama genre. The authority has a good reason to go against the genre. "The time-travel drama is becoming a hot theme for TV and films. But its content and the exaggerated performance style are questionable. Many stories are totally made-up and are made to strain for an effect of novelty. The producers and writers are treating the serious history in a frivolous way, which should by no means be encouraged anymore."

That's not about the quality, but the content. It's not that they are, "bad" but they are, "totally made up," and, "frivolous", which is to be discouraged.


The but that says they are bad is almost a classic of, "the lurkers support us in e-mail." This... "Also many people complain there’re too many mistakes on history facts, making it unbearable to watch. "

Ok. I believe that, but in a country with more than a billion people, there are guaranteed to be "many people" who find something(anything) "unbearable" to watch.

#7 ::: Dr. Psycho ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2011, 04:53 PM:

I beg to differ, Xopher. Think of the glorious flowering of political humor under police states.

#8 ::: Kirby ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2011, 04:55 PM:

Bogus!

#9 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2011, 04:58 PM:

Jeez, Dr Psycho, you don't hafta beg.

I'd just point out that it may sometimes be essential to laugh at something that really isn't all that funny. That's what I was doing in my first comment.

When I think about it, it's actually horrifying that they're so stupid and so controlling. It's not really funny. But laughing about it is the only way to deal with it.

I have cancer right now. That's not funny. But BOY am I making jokes about it!

Shorter: the jokes are funny. The situation that engenders the jokes is not.

#10 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2011, 04:58 PM:

Also, no more hasty remakes of the Four Great Classical Novels.

I gather history is supposed to be instructive, rather than something you use as a background for romance, adventure, or comedy.

Right. Like that's going to work.

I'm not saying it's impossible for writers and producers of popular fictional narratives to take a thoughtful, responsible approach to history. I'm saying that the ones who are good at it have so thoroughly internalized history as the story of the world that they can't invent further stories that don't take it into account. Nevertheless, whatever their background, their automatic allegiance is to story.

#11 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2011, 05:04 PM:

I hear you, Xopher. I can't talk about that thing they do with the arrqyrf fghpx orgjrra zl iregroenr, puneevat gur nkbaf bss gur areirf, without laughing. (Ben Yalow, do not decrypt that.)

#12 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2011, 05:06 PM:

Time travel stories are essentially about questioning history. It's not that surprising that authoritarian regimes would look askance at that.

#13 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2011, 05:18 PM:

If history is written by the victors, who writes time travel and alternate history?

#14 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2011, 05:28 PM:

Tom Whitmore: There's a mythology of history in which we are at the pinnacle, with everything inexorably leading to this glorious moment, and therefore there's no need to do anything, because it can change nothing. People who write alternate history know that this moment, like all the other moments, are part of a moving stream, and that nothing is inevitable and history is made by people like us in moments just like this.

#15 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2011, 05:28 PM:

One of their premiers from the future came back and told them to do it.

#16 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2011, 05:30 PM:

Ginger @ 5...

It's about time,
It's about space,
About strange people in the strangest place.
It's about time,
It's about flight,
Travelin' faster than the speed of light.

#17 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2011, 05:35 PM:

Perhaps they're just clearing the decks for the official, government-funded time-travel series, which will carry the Correct Messages and only be inaccurate in approved fashions.

(Everyone does know that Dr Who was originally intended to be educational as well as entertaining? Travel to the past to teach the nippers history, and to the future to teach them science, apparently. Diversions into the art of accessorizing like Tom Baker were a later wrinkle.)

#18 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2011, 05:37 PM:

TNH @10:
Also, no more hasty remakes of the Four Great Classical Novels.

Not without Bridget Jonesing them, anyway. Or perhaps O Brother Where Art Thouing.

#19 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2011, 05:40 PM:

"Come on, Sherman, let's hop into the No Way Back machine!"

#20 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2011, 05:41 PM:

"You had a bullet from World War I in your leg, James! How did it get there?"
- from 12 Monkeys

#21 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2011, 05:48 PM:

Am I the only fan who, when he was a kid, would fly a lightbulb around and pretend it was Brick Bradford's Time Top?

#22 ::: marc sobel ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2011, 05:51 PM:

You don't understand the importance of ancestry to the Chinese culture. This is obviously to prevent the Grandfather paradox.

Besides, if people think that you can go back in time they might start thinking about things they might change.

#23 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2011, 06:12 PM:

Will the ban be retroactive?

#24 ::: Denise ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2011, 06:15 PM:

Hmmm. This bugs me to no end...and not *just* that "the authority" is trying to "curtail frivolity" ~ I'm trying to figure out which is worse: in China, the establishment is trying to rein in "false history" and in the U.S. the establishment is trying to revise real history to suit political agendas.

Maybe there should be a movie about THAT.

#25 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2011, 06:57 PM:

Tom Whitmore #13: If history is written by the victors, who writes time travel and alternate history?

"History belongs to the winners."✌ If it's identifiable as "alternate" history, it's written by the real history.

✌ As per Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, which is one of the best "bad" movies about time travel you'll find out there.

#26 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2011, 06:57 PM:

abi 17: Diversions into the art of accessorizing like Tom Baker were a later wrinkle.

A Wrinkle in Time, perhaps?

#27 ::: Paul Duncanson ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2011, 07:03 PM:

If history is written by the victors, who writes time travel and alternate history?

Hawthorne Abendsen.

#28 ::: Rob Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2011, 07:25 PM:

Paul @ 27: The Man In The High Castle was written with the I-Ching as a guide, wasn't it?

#29 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2011, 07:27 PM:

A few years back one of the big-three network news magazine shows was allowed to send a reporter to Pyongyang. One of the places she visited was a school for elite kids. She asked one of them what his favorite movie was.

"Toy Story 2!" was the boy's answer.

In Pyongyang.

In China, world capital of DVD piracy, I don't think this ban will any more effective than a fart in a hurricane.

#30 ::: Shinydan Howells ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2011, 07:43 PM:

So much for the remake of Marco Polo.

Ok, I'll get my inordinately long scarf...

#31 ::: Paul Duncanson ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2011, 08:03 PM:

Rob @ 28: Not only did Dick use the I-Ching as a guide for building the plot of Man In The High Castle but in the story, Abendsen used it in the same way to write The Grasshopper Lies Heavy.

#32 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2011, 08:11 PM:

alternate history is written by people who coulda shoulda been the winners.

#33 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2011, 08:45 PM:

Erik Nelson @ 32... Or contenders, instead of just being bums?

#34 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2011, 09:05 PM:

Xopher #26: Take two tesseracts and call me in the morning.

#35 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2011, 10:32 PM:

Sorry y'all, but casting this story as a Big Brother-esque attempt at historical manipulation is--well, Ockham would be disappointed. Historical dramas constitute a staggering proportion of popular Chinese television, and I sincerely doubt that time travel stories exhibit a unique anti-authoritarian quality.* "Oh no! The modern guy fell in love with a girl from classical China! THE GOVERNMENT IS A LIE!"

This is just regular old conservative cane-waving by a gerontocracy increasingly incensed at the kids these days filming sex-'n-cellphone-obsessed TV dramas on their historical lawn. This should be quite familiar to anyone who has seen a clip of John McCain in the past decade. It's a visceral, aesthetic abhorrence at work here, not a Machiavellian social agenda. It is done in the exact same spirit as a high school principal banning backwards baseball caps.

abi @ 17: "Perhaps they're just clearing the decks for the official, government-funded time-travel series, which will carry the Correct Messages and only be inaccurate in approved fashions."

and Stefan Jones @ 29: "In China, world capital of DVD piracy, I don't think this ban will any more effective than a fart in a hurricane. "

The Chinese media is very weirdly interpenetrated with the government. Essentially, almost all of the TV stations and producers are run by various national, provincial and municipal governments as a semi-detached, kindasorta profit-seeking enterprise. Which is to say, in a real sense the offending time travel dramas ARE the official government-funded version. This isn't some shadowy bureaucracy interfering with private enterprise, it's a shadowy bureaucracy communicating internally that the higher-ups aren't happy with the direction things have been going. That's why, ironically enough, the domestic Chinese dramas are the only media that can or will be effectively censored in China (though on the production rather than distribution end).

My intuition though is that this ruling is the product of a bunch of senior grumpy old men officials whose aides are this very moment whispering frantically into their ears how much money is made by these silly disrespectful time travel dramas, and that the ruling shall soon be reversed. Probably in a way that never admits that the ruling was ever made in the first place.

* I am utterly ticklepated at how on this thread time travel stories have become synonymous with a free people challenging authoritarian narratives of history. They just can't stand to hear our truth bombs! Excuse me, I should go do some stretches before patting myself on the back this hard.

#36 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2011, 10:36 PM:

I've thought for some time now that many time travel stories -- the ones of the form where Our Hero has to go back and set the time stream right after someone goofs it up -- are inherently conservative in nature. Poul Anderson's Time Patrol stories are probably the best example: The Time Patrol exists to make certain that the future people (I forget what they're called) get to have their nice civilization, and the rest of us have to suffer through whatever crappy history we're stuck with for their sake.

#37 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2011, 10:46 PM:

It sounds like Mr. Peabody's original machine would have been acceptable, but by his own definition the final WABAC would NOT have been allowed. Pity, that.

(Interestingly enough, the Wikipedia entry on the WABAC machine has it as a conventional time machine, while the entry for Mr. Peabody has the right one. And someone else is going to have to reconcile the two--not me.)

That reminds me: if we go by Mr. Peabody's precise definition the TARDIS as shown in all versions of Dr. Who is a bastard mix of Time Machine and WABAC machine, with most of the disadvantages of the former and only a few of the advantages of the latter. If you want to see a Dr. Who fan do mental outside loops, point this out and then point out that this means that not only is Mr. Peabody smarter than the Doctor because he built his from scratch but that The Doctor should find Mr. Peabody and ask him politely to fix the TARDIS properly. (The most common response is "But Mr. Peabody is a cartoon!" So?)

#38 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2011, 11:03 PM:

Conservative time travel stories (Avram @36 and others): Fritz Leiber's Changewar series goes that one farther, Avram, in that the universe acts in a very conservative manner -- see especially "Try and Change the Past!" for an example.

#39 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: April 07, 2011, 11:41 PM:

To paraphrase "Yes, Minister":

History at Oxford is written by the winners. History at Cambridge is written by winners who don't like being winners. History at the Open University is written by people who would like to be winners. History at Durham is written by people who would hate to be winners. History at St Andrews is written by people who think the Scots were winners. And history at the University of Cardiff is written by people who don't give a toss who wins, so long as it isn't the English.

#40 ::: Lawrence ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2011, 12:30 AM:

Heresiarch @35, the Chinese broadcast media are all owned and nominally run by the government, yes, but the DVDs sold on every street-corner aren't. If they were, they'd probably be better quality.

#41 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2011, 01:21 AM:

Dave @39:

St Andrews is too full of yahs who didn't get into Oxbridge to be "people who think the Scots were winners". That would be Edinburgh Uni, or perhaps Glesga.

#42 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2011, 02:42 AM:

Lawrence @ 40: Which is why they wouldn't be able to censor the dramas at the distribution end, on the street corner. However, they could probably prevent them from being produced in the first place seeing that they pretty much own and run all the production companies.

#43 ::: Lawrence ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2011, 03:10 AM:

You misunderstand my point. Sure, they won't make any more of their own, but they don't make 90% of the movies that the DVD vendors sell now.

#44 ::: Lawrence ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2011, 03:18 AM:

Which, I now see, was part of your original point; I should read more carefully. We're in agreement. They can only control production, not distribution, and there's plenty of foreign product to distribute.

#45 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2011, 05:42 AM:

#36 ::: Avram:

Asimov's The End of Eternity would be an exception, I think.

Card's Past Watch has time travelers changing the past, though I think he cheats by making the decision too easy.

Has anyone made it to the end of Garfinkle's All of an Instant? If so, is it conservative? Open universe? Bizarrely other?

#46 ::: Linda ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2011, 06:27 AM:

You know what? They can control everything because they don't care about nothing but their incomes. They don't care about people, not even about the kids.. :(

[Note: This was actually a comment spammer. Posted from 207.204.234.23. Link to porn site deleted. -- JDM]

#47 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2011, 06:37 AM:

Linda @46:

It's a profound mistake, and a real barrier to understanding, to assume that any group of people "don't care about people". Particularly children.

#48 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2011, 07:35 AM:

Charles Harness's The Paradox Men is an example of a non-conservative time travel story in which our hero, the hyper-evolved amnesiac time-travelling ninja, learns to change history.

#49 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2011, 08:03 AM:

What Heresiarch said. Modern China is not a "grayface hive."

I linked to this piece because I thought it was an amusing case of Old Men Yell At Clouds. It's also amusing to watch Americans, who tolerate a genuinely Brezhnevite level of totalitarianism in their workplaces, snarking off about China as if it's a land of gray conformism.

China is awful in many ways. I wouldn't want to be stuck there. It's overtly authoritarian, and its rulers have repeatedly shown themselves willing to do whatever it takes to stay in power. But it's not 1984. In fact, it's remarkable how little it's like 1984.

#50 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2011, 08:20 AM:

No more Great Leaps Forward!

We're going back to China in July. We'll visit one of Sarah's schoolmates/teammates who's moved back to Beijing. Her friend Lulu, down the street, is going with her family the same month, and we'll miss them by a couple of days. We didn't get to see the orphanage the first time around, but now it's on the itinerary. Sarah's pretty excited about going, and will probably look up from her iPod.

#51 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2011, 08:44 AM:

Nancy Lebovitz #45: Has anyone made it to the end of Garfinkle's

    All of an Instant?
If so, is it conservative? Open universe? Bizarrely other?

I rather liked it, but definitely not conservative, in any sense! Basically, there are "people" tampering with sequence of events via access to an "overspace". Overwritten sections need not match up with adjacent events, and this is a Bad Thing. A worse thing is that it's also possible to simply smash sections of timeline. Oh, and did I mention the ongoing war over control of history and the overspace?

#52 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2011, 09:05 AM:

Related story from NPR about a ban on certain words in advertising (e.g. "regal").

#53 ::: Alex R. ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2011, 10:01 AM:

"Hey you kids, get off of my aeon!"

#54 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2011, 10:19 AM:

David Harmon @25

Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, which is one of the best "bad" movies about time travel you'll find out there.

Agreed. It's one of the few I've seen where the characters, dumb though they may be, are smart enough to use time travel to solve their problems (the whole "after we get out of this, we have to remember to go back to yesterday and put the keys in that potted plant" bit is something I don't remember having seen elsewhere).

#55 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2011, 10:47 AM:

abi #17:

Or just clearing the decks for actual government-funded time-travel?

#56 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2011, 11:50 AM:

Niall McAuley @48 -- also known as Flight into Yesterday; IIRC, without checking, a longer version. If you've only read the Ace edition, you might want to look up the other.

Another non-conservative time travel book, which the Harness always makes me think of: Delany's Empire Star.

#57 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2011, 12:29 PM:

Nancy 45: I found The End of Eternity to be pure crap. If it had been the first thing by Asimov I'd read, I probably wouldn't have read another. Asimov is a writer I'm very fond of, but in that book he entirely lost control of his plot, his characters, and his universe. He seemed to forget that there WAS a timestream.

Well, all time-travel stories have a plausibility flaw, in my opinion. But that one...even as a teenager and already a fan of Asimov, I thought that was a stinker.

Patrick 49: Modern China is not a "grayface hive."

No, of course it isn't. It does have people in it, many of them with considerable power, who are trying to make it one (or at least have the dream of a greyface hive, where only they can think freely, in their hearts). Policies like this one just show that they don't know they've already failed, and that it's too late to put the genie back in the bottle.

I'm not sure that a free and democratic China is inevitable, much as it's pretty to think so, but I think it will never be as controlled as its worst (by which I mean "most strongly totalitarian") leaders would like it to be, or even as it has been at some times in the past (which, I agree, were never quite 1984).

Btw, I first heard the term 'greyface culture' in reference to corporate America in the 1980s. Judy Harrow pointed out to me that business people at the time dressed and acted like Puritans, except that their shining ideal was a pile of gold rather than the City of God.

#58 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2011, 12:34 PM:

(Before someone jumps on me, no, I don't mean that business people in the 1980s wore buckle hats. I mean they dressed in a narrow range of options with very little color. Judy and I rode a NJ Transit train out of the city one time to go give a talk about Wicca, and she noticed that, aside from the occasional tie, we were wearing the only bright color on the train. Everyone else was in shades of gray or in dark blue, with shirts ranging from cream to white.)

#59 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2011, 12:53 PM:

lorax @ 54: the whole "after we get out of this, we have to remember to go back to yesterday and put the keys in that potted plant" bit is something I don't remember having seen elsewhere

The 2004 film Primer takes this to the nth degree, and is one of my favorite recent SF films.

#60 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2011, 01:32 PM:

I liked British time-travel TV series "Primeval" well enough at first, but I had a bit of a problem with the country's first line of defense being not the military, but a bunch of scientists. On the other hand, that meant scenes of a young female scientist in her undies, so why am I complaining?

#61 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2011, 01:37 PM:

Xopher, #68: Ah yes, the culture of "power dressing", where wearing anything but black, grey, or navy marked you as a hopeless bumpkin.

Notice that while the dress style itself is now dated, the mindset it represented seems to have spread into rather a lot of American culture. In this I'm with heresiarch -- we have no business snarking at the Chinese about tolerance of either totalitarianism or uniformity.

#62 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2011, 01:38 PM:

Damn, I seem to be making a lot of numbering errors lately. No, that wasn't intended to be a comment from the future.

#63 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2011, 01:41 PM:

lorax #54: Yup, and in the sequel, they apply the same attitude to the Journey Through the Afterlife. (Thus explaining how the two rockers actually qualified to start a religion!)

(My single favorite line: "We'd better get moving, before we ruin it for everybody.")

#64 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2011, 01:49 PM:

Linda: Huh? They may not have a vision you like, but they do care about what is going on, and the children. Making them to be monsters, and the Chinese populace nothing more than some sort of oppressed mass is short-sighted, and wrong.

#65 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2011, 01:59 PM:

I have a friend who spent two years in different parts of China, teaching English.

She's a Quaker, so one may safely assume she has a very different take on how things ought to be run than she saw being practiced in China.

One of the things she commented on, after the second trip (she had a sojourn in the states between years), was that in China she felt a much greater freedom to talk about things. There wasn't anything she didn't think she could talk about.

Write about, engage in social protest about, try to find on the internet†, those were all things where she felt constrained, but there wasn't anything she felt nervous talking about, with anyone.

This, she said, was not the case in the states. She was afraid to discuss lots of things (LGBT issues, politics [she was in China from 2003-2005, with the summer of 2004 in the states, DC, the Midwest and some time in Calif], social justice, not because the gov't would react, but her fellow citizens made it feel dangerous.

She had more legal right to speak her mind her, but less freedom to do it, and the reverse was true in China.


†she said it was obvious they were tracking individual machines. There were times her internet, and only hers; in the entire building, was on the fritz: when she'd been looking at something the Chinese Gov't probably wouldn't approve of

#66 ::: Martin Haywood ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2011, 02:03 PM:

There *is* a thread that I think people are missing here. History is very important in Chinese culture, because for a long long time it's been consciously used to legitimize the ruling dynasty/government/regime. History has been rewritten, carefully, by each successive regime including the Communist one and even after Mao and the Gang of Four again revised. To show that the current government is correct, and virtuous, and that previous governments governed successfully only so long as they were likewise virtuous.

So how does time travel drama mess with this where historical drama does not? I don't know, but I think that's the interesting question.

#67 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2011, 03:30 PM:

Martin @66
So how does time travel drama mess with this where historical drama does not?

Historical drama has no strange outliers. It's a self-contained world -- intact and static. Time travel drama messes around with what is known and understood and changes what is perceived as unchangeable.

Changing the past through time travel is a form of revisionist history. If we can do it in theory, we can do it in reality by changing documents and records that people use now along with (dis)information campaigns. There's also a school of thought that if we change our past, we change our present and our future. But if you lie about your past to change your present... where will the madness end?

Way back when in college, I remember a poetry survey class touching on the fact that Chinese poets were considered dangerous because they wrote about all manner of politics and got away with it because they used art as a vehicle for their protests. China has a long and honored history of censorship.

It could be that the censors consider science fiction-y time travel dramas to be the new version of old poetry. I may be remembering my history wrong, but I think that Mao started his takeover by killing and/or driving out poets, artist, academics and other free thinkers.

#68 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2011, 08:01 PM:

Jo Walton #14: "People who write alternate history know that this moment, like all the other moments, are part of a moving stream, and that nothing is inevitable and history is made by people like us in moments just like this."

People who write history *well* know this too.

(Also, am I the only one who thinks that Erik Nelson won the thread back in #23?)

#69 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2011, 08:22 PM:

PNH: an amusing case of Old Men Yell At Clouds

Yeah. I haven't read the Four Great Historical Novels, but the bits I know about Watermargin make the prohibition sound a lot like "No, you're not going to make yet another bloody Robin Hood remake until you've got something bloody new to say about it! And just making it a cartoon with animals playing the characters isn't enough!"

"And you can't remake Shakespeare unless you're going to be at least as original as West Side Story, and just calling your version 'William Shakespeare's Richard the Third' isn't good enough."

"And while you're at it, you're not going to get permission to make another Star Wars sequel or prequel unless Jar-Jar Binks gets killed off in the first few scenes."

#70 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2011, 09:26 PM:

Victoria: I don't know about historical drama having no outliers. There are any number of people with axes to grind, writing "historical" fiction meant to make the way they see the past the way others see it.

#71 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2011, 10:34 PM:

Avram @ 36: "I've thought for some time now that many time travel stories -- the ones of the form where Our Hero has to go back and set the time stream right after someone goofs it up -- are inherently conservative in nature."

Yes, and the "I went back and tried to change it but it turned out just the same anyways" is similarly conservative. It's almost as if time travel and alternate history stories can be put to both revolutionary and conservative ends! No. It couldn't be.

Martin Haywood @ 66: "History is very important in Chinese culture, because for a long long time it's been consciously used to legitimize the ruling dynasty/government/regime."

Yes, those mysterious Easterners, so different from you or me, consciously deploying historical narratives to legitimize the dominance of the current rulers or push a particular social agenda.

Victoria @ 67: "Time travel drama messes around with what is known and understood and changes what is perceived as unchangeable.

Changing the past through time travel is a form of revisionist history. If we can do it in theory, we can do it in reality by changing documents and records that people use now along with (dis)information campaigns."

I like how in this section you pivot seamlessly between arguing that time travel is inherently revolutionary-in-a-good-way because it's about revising history and then in the very next sentence accuse people who revise history by changing documents and records as engaging in disinformation campaigns.

#72 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2011, 12:32 AM:

A nicely ironic backdrop for the Republicans in Congress taking us all back to 1937.

#73 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2011, 03:37 AM:

heresiarch @17:
Yes, those mysterious Easterners, so different from you or me, consciously deploying historical narratives to legitimize the dominance of the current rulers or push a particular social agenda.

I've lived in post-Bravheart Scotland. All I can say is to that sentiment is, amen.

But you might do a bit better putting things in a slightly less...forceful manner. Flies, honey, vinegar, all that, you know?

#74 ::: Chris W. Sees Spam? ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2011, 07:39 AM:

Looking at Linda @46:

If I read that a few times, I don't think it's actually at all responsive to the original post, (think how many posts this could actually be a response to) which makes the fact that the poster is a drive-by and the link is to a porn site stick out like a sore thumb to me.

Not sure whether it should be deleted, since so many people have responded to it, but probably the link should be removed.

#75 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2011, 08:07 AM:

#74 Chris W.

Dealt with.

#76 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2011, 10:39 AM:

72
They undershot their target that badly? They seemed to be aiming for 1837.

#77 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2011, 10:58 AM:

Coming soon...
"Bach to the Future"
"Brother, Can you Spare A Dime Tunnel"

#78 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2011, 01:18 PM:

heresiarch, #71: While I agree with the rest of what you say here, I have to take issue with your response to Victoria. I see no contradiction between the first and second paragraphs you quote. Changing history is revisionist, no matter what your motive for doing so. In fact, reading Victoria's entire post @67, I don't see her arguing anything else anywhere in it.

#79 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2011, 05:41 PM:

P J Evans @ 76: I was thinking specifically of the double-dip depression, but then I was reminded of LePage's gunning for child labor laws.

A hit, a most palpable hit.

#80 ::: Persephone ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2011, 06:47 PM:

albatross @420: Agreed. I told the husband, who doesn't follow politics, that the entire sticking point this time was funding for women's health care. His incredulous reaction was something to behold.

#81 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2011, 07:01 PM:

abi @ 73... I've lived in post-Bravheart Scotland

How much post it?

#82 ::: Persephone ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2011, 07:36 PM:

So sorry, wrong thread. *slinks away*

#83 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2011, 03:03 PM:

Charlie Stross' Palimpsest is a most unconservative (in several senses, physical and political) time travel story. It's my theory that part of his motivation for writing it was to twist Poul Anderson's Time Patrol around and show it up for the fascist organization it was behind the scenes (it can't be a coincidence that the Commandant of the Temporal Academy (that's probably not the correct title or organization, but I'm too lazy to go look for the right one) in Charlie's story is named Manson).

#84 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2011, 03:04 PM:

Serge @ 77:

Or the Republican version, "Bachman to the Past".

#85 ::: Martin Haywood ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2011, 07:33 PM:

heresiarch @71 :
YES. Everyone's done it. Confucianism made it a state religion (the mandate of heaven).

But, I think Victoria @ 67 is on to something. Communism has it's own religious view of history, that it must show the ascent of the working class as an inevitable historical process. And time travel messes with that because...?

I'm not exactly sure. Possibly people from the far future should be the enlightened "free" workers of the perfect socialist state? Possibly time travel drama unlike historical drama focuses not on the evils of the feudal state but the commonalities between people and oppression of all times? I don't have an answer.

#86 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2011, 08:17 PM:

Martin Haywood: I would guess the storylines, in some way, call that inevitability into question. It's not a question, I suspect, of the medium, but the message.

Not being able to watch/understand the stories/context, I can't give a better response than that.

#87 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2011, 10:01 AM:

Communism has it's own religious view of history, that it must show the ascent of the working class as an inevitable historical process. And time travel messes with that because...?

Because if one person can go back in time and change history, that implies that one person can change history without having to go back in time first.
If you write a story about genius physicist Bob Cohen averting the Second World War by going back in time and shooting Hitler in 1938, then the unspoken premise of that story is that if someone had really shot Hitler in 1938 then the war would not have happened. The cod-Marxist "historical inevitability" view is that the war was the inevitable result of vast historical forces and if you shot Hitler the war would still have happened.

#88 ::: Neil W ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2011, 10:32 AM:

Because if one person can go back in time and change history, that implies that one person can change history without having to go back in time first.

I had thought that Time Travel protagonists who change history inherently support the "Great Man"* theory of history. But no! Time travellers from the future are inevitably better socialists** than those native to that period, and have better antitheses*** to the current theses to create superior syntheses. The axioms of dialectical chrono-materialism demand it.

* Also "Great Pillock" and "Want of a nail" as well.
** Or rather from a later stage in history, so a capitalist sent back to the middle ages has better options and methods of working than the feudalists.
*** So, for example, shooting Hitler rather than making the Munich agreement.

#89 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2011, 12:04 PM:

88: implying that time travellers can speed up the progress of history, but can't change its direction. (cf Lenin trying to leapfrog the capitalist phase in Russia)

#90 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2011, 12:17 PM:

Ooh, plot idea. "To the Finland Station" meets "Terminator".

1917. Locked in a grinding, bloody war on two fronts, the German General Staff hatches a Fiendish Plan: take Russia out of the war by sending Lenin back in time to 1905 (in a sealed train, "like a plague bacillus"), in order to ensure the success of the 1905 revolution, creating anarchy and chaos in Russia and ensuring that, twelve years later, the country will be in no state to participate in the Great War.

#91 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2011, 12:19 PM:

Naturally, Sir Walter Bullivant gets wind of the plan and sends back Richard Hannay to stop it.

Mainly I just like the idea of a disoriented Richard Hannay arriving in Edwardian London without any clothes on. ("He's not even wearing a tie! Good God!") Or would Sandy Arbuthnot be a better choice?

#92 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2011, 12:17 AM:

ajay@91: Richard Hannay

Oh, dear! Thanks for an interesting diversion through Wikipedialand. I recognized the name Richard Hannay from the movie The Thirty-Nine Steps, of course, but hadn't known that the character had been in four more novels by the author of the original book (with bit parts in a couple more) - two of which have entered the public domain and are now on Gutenberg, shortly to appear on my Kindle after I'm done reading the piece by Paarfi\\\\Dumas.

As I'm apparently not Mr. Memory, I'm having trouble remembering whether I saw the 2008 movie remake or only a review of it by Ebert or somebody. My wife considers the original to be hopelessly boring, but it worked quite well for me.

#93 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2011, 03:29 AM:

Actually I like the way you could take that idea in a semi-serious direction. By 1917 Hannay's been at war for three years and been wounded at Loos. 1905 London might be only twelve years earlier but it would be immensely removed from his wartime life in 1917.
You could even take the plot to the Continent; maybe he pursues the villain to a peaceful little village in Belgium that no one's ever heard of, called Ypres...

#94 ::: GG ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2011, 09:08 AM:

It's obviously a dastardly plot by Ruling Party members from the future.

#95 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2011, 01:35 PM:

ajay @93

The native Hannay of 1905 will, no doubt, be making his pile in Africa, but maybe a few soldiers back from the war will see this chap they think they recognise.

Dashed tricky, eh?

#96 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2011, 04:48 AM:

1905 takes him back before the Anglo-Russian Entente and into the Great Game.
Hmm. Time-Travelling Hannay/Kim Teamup!

#97 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2011, 10:06 AM:

A young Chinese physics student invents a time travel machine, when asked about what inspired him to do so the reticent youth would only say that it was his love of time travel in 'the movies'.

Unfortunately time travel proves not to be a boon but rather a bane for humanity, with people traveling back and forth through the eons screwing up human continuity.

to avert inevitable extinction an agent of the future travels back to early 21st century China, infiltrating the government and outlawing the showing of movies with time travel as the theme.

#98 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2011, 01:07 AM:

Further developments: Chinese censors ban Spy Dramas. Might be related to the upcoming 90th anniversary of the founding of the CCP.

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